Hardy, who succeeded Don Barbour as chairman July 1, said in a news release he wanted to increase membership in the 640-member organization by at least 20 percent by showing the value in joining the chamber.
“I know that’s an ambitious goal,” Hardy said. “Businesses are still reeling a little from the recession, and they look at every investment they make. Chamber membership is no different, and we need to show them value.
“Like any organization offering services, we want to present a solid value proposition for the business community in a tangible way that we can communicate to current and potential members.”
He said membership includes business exposure and the chance to participate in networking opportunities, programs, seminars, workshops and social events. He hopes to enhance membership value with additional networking events and business surveys.
Hardy, president and chief executive officer of MembersFirst Credit Union, is a native and lifelong Paulding County resident. He has worked for the credit union for a quarter of a century, after working at other area institutions including First Paulding Federal Savings and Loan.
He has served on the chamber’s board of directors, most recently as vice chairman, and chaired its education committee.
Hardy said he supports chamber interaction with businesses to solicit feedback and input on what support the chamber can provide.
“We need that feedback to find out what to do additionally or do differently,” he said. “We’ll produce a benefits statement outlining the many things the chamber provides.”
The credit union joined the chamber soon after opening a branch in Paulding “because it’s important to be visible in the community. You can put a building or a sign up, but folks and businesses want to see you involved in the community, and the chamber is one way to do that,” Hardy said.
He said members can get involved in area schools through the chamber’s workforce development committee which works to increase the graduation rate and improve career readiness.
“It lends a great deal of respect, being a chamber member,” Hardy said.
An additional membership benefit is listing in chamber publications and on the chamber website, where changes will be rolled out soon. The new website will have advertising opportunities and can highlight chamber members in different areas of the site, Hardy said.
Another of the new chairman’s goals is seeking ways to collaborate even more with Paulding County Economic Development Inc. to bring businesses and jobs to Paulding. The chamber helped organize and fund the economic development agency in 2011.
A strategic planning retreat is planned for the fall with the goal of documenting mid- and long-term goals, Hardy said
“We’ll do a lot of planning about how to grow the chamber and communicate value,” he said. “Probably more goals will come out of that.”